“And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
(Matthew 19:16-22 ESV)
Today a young man who was also rich and a ruler [Luke 18:18], comes up to Jesus asking how he could have eternal life. By asking this question the man was admitting that he did not yet have eternal life. He recognized a deep spiritual need in himself that all his successes and wealth had failed to satisfy.
By coming to Jesus and addressing Him as “teacher” the man was recognizing Jesus as a respected rabbi and authority on this subject. His problem, however, lies in his question. He wanted to know what good deed he must do in order to make it to heaven. He thought he could earn his way there.
Notice that Jesus does not immediately urge him to pray a sinner’s prayer, which is what most Christians would probably do if someone asked us this question. Instead Jesus talks with this man to make sure he understands and is ready to accept the true answer. Everyone’s heart is either ready to accept the gospel or not, as Jesus told us in the Parable of the Soils [Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23]. If this man’s heart turned out to be any of the first three types of soils, he would not be receptive to the gospel.
This man deserves a lot of credit. How to obtain eternal life is the most important question a person can ask. It is a question whose answer is worth pursuing. Sadly there are many people who never stop to even think about eternity let alone investigate it, especially young, wealthy, and powerful people who think they have all they need because they have much on this earth.
What’s more, this man came up to Jesus while Jesus was in the presence of a bunch of little children and their mothers [Matthew 19:13-15]. Here was a man – a ruler – who was certainly known by the other citizens of this area admitting he didn’t have all the answers. He didn’t come in secret or wait until Jesus was alone. In came in full view of those he had authority over, humbled himself before Jesus, as Mark’s version of this story tells us [Mark 10:17], and admitted his life was empty.
Sadly, too many people are too proud to pursue the answers about eternity. They think they already know, but they’ve likely done no research on the subject. They instead believe what they want to believe.
Finally, notice this man came to the only one who could provide Him with the answer to his question. This is where everyone should go. We shouldn’t go to our friends; they are just as lost as we are. We shouldn’t turn to the government; they know nothing more about eternal truth than we do. We shouldn’t turn to religion and expect answers from the Koran, or the Pope, or Hindu gurus.
Jesus is the only source of truth about eternal life. He is eternal life [John 14:6; 1 John 5:11].
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